Obituary: The Right Rev Mgr Thomas Hughes

THOMAS HUGHES was a man of the people. A parish priest first and a member of the Catholic hierarchy second, his teaching was eloquent, down to earth, and clear. While he will be best remembered by his flock for the pastoral care he showed them, it is for his patient overseeing of the construction of Clifton Cathedral, in Bristol, that his diocese has cause to be thankful for his 60 years of service.

Following the Reformation, it was not until the political emancipation of 1829 that English Catholics were able openly to construct a church in Bristol. Work began in 1834 but the site, like many hillside areas of the rapidly expanding city, proved treacherous, and the original design, for a grandiose Victorian edifice, was abandoned.

In 1846, the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Ullathorne, raised a fund to roof the half-finished building. A timber structure based on the principles of inverted ship construction was added and the church was formally opened in September 1848. With the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England by Pope Pius IX two years later, Clifton became an Episcopal See, and the Church of the Twelve Apostles became the pro-cathedral until such time as a cathedral proper could be constructed.

It was to this pro-cathedral that Thomas Hughes, a 23-year-old farmer's son from Co Kilkenny, came to be ordained in 1939. With three of his brothers already priests, Hughes had studied at Prior Park College in Bath and later at the College of St Sulpice in Paris. He served his curacies in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, and at the pro-cathedral. Subsequently he was a parish priest in both Bristol and Bath before being appointed parish priest of the pro-cathedral and Vicar General of the Clifton Diocese in 1962.

Although there was much work to be done in the diocese - particularly as the bishop, Bishop Rudderham, was heavily involved in the Second Vatican Council - Hughes maintained that his first priority was to the parishioners of the pro-cathedral in the Georgian quarter of Bristol. His vision for a suitable building to be the centre of diocesan worship was shared by his colleagues and in August 1965 architects from the Percy Thomas Partnership were commissioned to undertake the design and construction of a new cathedral.

The Council's decree on liturgical worship helped to focus attention at the embryonic Clifton Cathedral on the participation by all the people with the bishop and their priests in the celebration of the Eucharist. The principal requirement was therefore to provide a space where a congregation of 1,000 could be grouped closely around the altar so that they should feel and be a part of the celebration of the mass.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Rudderham in September 1970 and work was completed on time and on budget at an overall cost, including adjacent clergy house and offices, of pounds 800,000. This was in no small part due to Hughes's inspired stewardship. The cathedral was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul in the presence of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan, on 29 June 1973, the feast of those two Apostles. On the same day came news that Hughes was to be honoured for his work by Pope Paul VI with the title Protonotary Apostolic.

The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Clifton which covers the regions of North Somerset, Bath, North and South Gloucester, Wiltshire, South Somerset, and Bristol. More than 130,000 Catholics look to it not so much as an architectural monument, but as a symbol and focus for the unity of the church. From the start Hughes ensured the cathedral gained an international reputation for the celebration of the liturgy. The building is also regularly used for public concerts, continuing the centuries-old tradition of the Church's patronage of the arts.

Following heart surgery by Professor Magdi Yacoub, Hughes retired in 1981 to St Angela's Convent in Bristol, from where he kept in touch with his many friends. He continued to work throughout the diocese, preaching, teaching and leading days of prayer. He was the first person to be buried in the grounds of the new cathedral.

Thomas John Hughes, priest: born Johnstown, Co Kilkenny 19 July 1915; ordained priest 1939; Vicar General, Diocese of Clifton 1962-81; Protonotary Apostolic 1973; died Bristol 1 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album